Go ‘Into the Woods’ July 15 with Minnetonka Theatre

(Photo courtesy of Liz barlow)
Minnetonka Theatre’s “Into the Woods” cast: Front left to right, Vera Shipley, Henry Constable, Riley Means, Paris Curry and Aliyah Busselberg; Center left to right, Gabe Smerillo, Claire DesLauriers, Hannah Moore, Natalie Doyle and Emma Tripp; Back left to right, Matthew Humason, Adam Ward and Laird Busselberg.

By Paige Kieffer
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The community can follow Minnetonka Theatre’s summer production of “Into the Woods,” which premieres 7:30 p.m., Saturday July 15, at Arts Center on 7, 18285 Hwy. 7, Minnetonka.

Originally, the troupe slated the summer musical to be “Sister Act” but couldn’t find the right cast for the roles. Directors Trent Boyum and Lauren Bartelt went to the drawing table to find the best production for the 60 students who wanted to be involved.

They decided on triple Tony Award winner, which was written in 1986 by James Lapine with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

“We just couldn’t find the right cast for ‘Sister Act,’” Boyum said. “We had 60 kids who wanted to participate and when we canceled ‘Sister Act’ we thought about what show would be perfect for the kids we have and we found ‘Into the Woods’ and it fit perfectly.”

“Into the Woods” was previously staged at Minnetonka Theatre, during the school year in 2008, and Bartelt was in the production as a student.

There was an open casting call and the cast includes Minnetonka High School students and graduates, but also includes high school and college students from around the Twin Cities.

“We have one of the strongest casts I’ve ever had,” Boyum said. “They’re perfect for their roles because this show was selected for them.”

This Brothers Grimm-inspired musical follows a baker and his wife who wish to have a child, Cinderella who wishes to go the king’s festival and Jack who wishes his cow would give some milk.

The Baker and his wife are visited by the neighborhood witch, who reveals to them that she placed a curse on their family, and the two set off on a journey into the woods to reverse the curse where they meet Little Red Riding Hood, who is trying to visit her grandmother, the wolf who loves tasty little girls, the witch’s daughter Rapunzel and two princes chasing after their loves.

But when Jack’s beanstalk brings them a visit from an angry giant, they see how the consequences of their actions haunt them in disastrous ways. The community must come together to save each other and their kingdom, but sacrifices must be made.

“All the characters in this production have wishes and dreams and they all get, but not in the right way, and the repercussions of that is what they learn in the second half, where you get some much depth with the characters,” said Minnehaha Academy student Matthew Humason who plays the baker.
“‘Into the Woods’ has big, broad and many themes and the production can be interpreted in many different ways based on what the director and the actors bring,” said Boyum. “For me ‘Into the Woods’ is about a community and how that community in the face of adversity needs to band together and conquer evil. What I love about this piece is for the actors no one is perfect. They’re princes but not heroes, they’re flawed. It’s a character study of this universe that’s created in the story. It’s also very humorous but also very touching. It’s all these contradictions that are multi-layered into the story that make it fun for the actors to perform and also beautiful for an audience to watch.”

One of the signature elements is Sondheim’s beautiful and intricate music and lyrics. Songs include “Agony,” “Children Will Listen” and “Ever After.”

“‘Into the Woods’ for musical theater students is the equivalent of doing Shakespeare simply because of the music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim,” Boyum said. “He’s the top in our musical theater world. He has extremely difficult material that can be hard for the actors and the audience as well.”

“The Sondheim music is difficult,” said Humason. “He presents a melody but then a few measures later he slightly changes it. Its a genius composing tool where the music matches where the character is emotionally.”

“The music is all funky harmonies, crazy rhythms and that’s matched by the plot,” added Minnetonka High School graduate Maddy Smerillo, who plays Cinderella. “You’ll see all these crazy twists on traditional fairy tales that you wouldn’t normally see happen or adds another reality to a situation.”

Minnetonka Theatre’s production of “Into the Woods” is playing at 7:30 p.m. July 15, 27, 28 and 29; 2 p.m. July 16 and 30 and 4 p.m. July 23.

Tickets are $15 adult and senior and $10 youth; General Admission and group rates available.

Minnetonka Theatre Arts Center on 7 is located at 18285 Hwy. 7, Minnetonka.

For more information, visit minnetonkatheatre.com or call 952-401-5898.

Follow Paige Kieffer on Facebook at facebook.com/mnsunsailor.